John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1 has been variously translated by cult groups. Geisler and Rhodes list three groups—Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), Christian Science, and the Way International—and their incorrect interpretations of John 1:1 in their book When Cultists Ask. They are as follows: In the JW’s New World Translation, this verse reads, “The Word was a god.” The JW’s explain this by saying, “because there is no definite article ‘the’ it means Christ is only a god, not the God” (Watchtower, 7 December 1995, 4). Thus, the JW’s tout Jesus as a created being who is really the Archangel Michael (Watchtower,15 May 1969, 307). The Greek of John 1:1 “is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god” (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989, 212).
Of course the JW’s deny the deity of Jesus, so they would have to change John 1:1 to fit their theology that he is only “a god.” So, since Christ is God (e.g., 8:58; 10:30; 20:28; cf. Col. 1:15-16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8), it’s no wonder the JW’s wrote their own Bible, the New World Translation and made him “a god.” What they fail to recognize is that it is not necessary to translate Greek nouns without a definite article (“the”) with an indefinite one (“a”). Thus, “God” without a “the” preceding it does not the translation “a god.” Greek sentences like this one—two nouns joined by a “be” verb—normally place the “the” only before the subject of the sentence, and in this case the subject is the “Logos.” To place it before “God” would equate the Son with the Father, and that is heresy. Thus, John 1:1 perfectly explains that the Word is God.
Truth is, the presence or absence of “the” does not change the basic meaning of God.If John had intended the adjectival use of “the Word”—as in the Word being godlike ordivine—the Greek adjective “like God” was at his disposal (theois). But he simply said that the Word was God. Contrary to the claims of the JW’s, there are many NT passages which do use “the” in reference to Christ as “the God.” One example is John 20:28 where Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God”—literally, “The Lord of me and the God of me” (cf. Matt. 1:23; Heb. 1:8).
Mary Baker Eddy, leader of the Christian Science cult, claimed that John 1:1 taught that God is impersonal. Eddy said, “This great truth of God’s impersonality and individuality…is the foundation of Christian Science” (Eddy, 117). She believed that the Word was God, but this made Him impersonal in her estimation. In the NT, however, God has a mind (John 10:15), a will (John 4:34; 7:17), and feeling (John 4:23). Furthermore, His children may cry out to Him, “Abba Father” (i.e., “daddy”) according to passages like Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. But even in John 1:1 God as the Logos—a rational discourse or reason—rationally chose by His own freewill to create, to love, to become flesh, to save, etc. And once He became flesh (1:14), theLogos (the Word) lived among His creation and had a relationship with them.
Paul Wierville of The Way International claims that Jesus only existed in God’s mind in the beginning and not in reality, that is until his birth. In other words, Jesus is not an eternal being who existed prior to the universe. However, John asserts that the “Word” (Logos) was a person (1:14), not an idea in God’s mind. Though Wierville says that “foreknowledge” of Jesus was all that was in God’s mind eternally, and that foreknowledge of him became flesh and dwelt among us, John 1:1 says that the “Word [Christ] was God”—from all eternity. Knowledge would not be “with” God, for God wouldhave knowledge. The preposition “with” implies something alongside in a close bond (cf. John 20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8).
All cults and the many false teachings out there today could be debunked if folks would just do a little study of the text. But the devil is at work in twisting the Bible to fit with his own lies. So let us be about the task of teaching the truth and defending the faithagainst heretics.